I was desperate to spot my first hippo in the wild and this fisherwoman at Lake Piti in Mozambique knew exactly where they were bathing.
She led me around the lake’s marshy shoreline and pointed them out, their heads bobbing up and down in the water as they kept themselves cool.
She was amused at my camera and I motioned to her to look through the viewfinder but she recoiled in terror. I don’t think she’d seen a camera before!
The sun dips below the horizon quickly in Mozambique and I quickly fired off a few shots of her watching the hippos as the sun’s last rays sparkled across the lake.
As a general rule, you don’t get too close to hippos as they’re one of the world’s most dangerous animals because of their unpredictable aggression. Fortunately they stayed in the lake snorting and blowing water from their large flared nostrils – and within distance of a quick getaway.
There are also crocodiles in Lake Piti which lies within Mozambique National Park. Sometimes the crocs venture onto a nearby beach, apparently.
On the walk back to where we’d met I stumbled across the fisherwoman’s catch of the day; gutted, salted, split open in two and drying on the grass. She used a net, which she swept across a section of the lake, to land her catch. Among her haul was a huge catfish, decapitated and also drying on the grass.
Before we parted we ducked under an old elephant fence and I hitched a ride in a little boat made from corrugated iron. Not surprisingly, it leaked like a sieve and at one point I had to jump out and wade waist deep back to the shore.
Lake Piti is a marvellously remote spot and I wish I could have spent longer there but the light was fading fast and it was still a bumpy two-hour 4×4 drive back to my coastal base for the night.